There is a vast array of snack bars, protein bars and crunchy snack items on the market. I love making my own snack bars since I can choose my ingredients and know there are no stabilizers or added sugar. These bars couldn’t be easier to make as they don’t even require cooking, just a trip to the freezer. Almond butter is the base of the bar, and the oats keep the bars together along with maple syrup. I added lightly toasted chopped pecans and dark chocolate chips. You can substitute slivered almonds or another favorite nut, if you choose. Nuts can be toasted in a dry skillet or in a 350 degree F oven spread out on a sheet tray for 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and fragrant. These are crumbly bars and hold together better if stored in the refrigerator.
If you're using regular old fashioned oats, give them a quick pulse in a food processor to chop up the oats. Line an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Spray the paper with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, chocolate chips, cinnamon and salt. Whisk well to combine.
In liquid measuring cup, measure out the almond butter. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended. You can gently warm the liquid mixture in the microwave, but make sure it’s cool before adding the other ingredients or the chocolate chips will melt.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to mix the ingredients together really well, until no dry oats remain. You can use your hands too. The drier the mixture, the more firm the bars will be, so stir in extra oats if the mixture seems too wet.
Spoon the batter into the baking pan. Use your spoon to spread out the batter, packing down the batter as firmly as possible. I used the bottom of a glass measuring cup to firmly and evenly pack down the bars.
Cover the baking pan with foil and freeze (or refrigerate) for at least one hour, or overnight. Use a sharp knife to slice the bars. These bars keep well for a couple of days at room temperature, but you can refrigerate or freeze them as well.